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Featured Map: The Pulp World, 1935 and German Expansion, 1930-1939

These maps were part of a much larger series done for Hero Games’ publication, Pulp Hero. Part of the background for the sourcebook was an overview of the world of the 1930’s. This was one of the heyday decades for pulp action, and of course, the stomping ground of that modern pulp icon, Indiana Jones.

Pulp World 1935

Pulp World 1935

In order to give these maps flavor, I decided to go with a period look. I wanted the maps to be interesting props, evoking the feeling of the setting as well as being an informative guide.

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Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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Featured Art: Epoch of Rysos (Photoshop Layers and Effects)

Here’s a commission I recently finished. This is the logo for a science fiction setting, Epoch of Rysos.
The client had specified a “clean future” sort of a look, not the lived-in and tarnished Star Wars or Alien style world. He also specified a squarish design rather than a rectangular one, for ease of use in future design products. I’m really happy with the way this came out.

This was designed in Illustrator to get the vector shapes. The individual layers were imported into Photoshop, where I worked layer effect magic to turn this:

into this:

There really isn’t much more to the Photoshop file than the black and white image you see in the first shot. Each design element is on a separate layer. Each layer has a series of effects that control things like beveling, shiny-ness, color and gradient, texture, drop shadows and so forth. Once the base design is achieved, the majority of time is spent in tweaking all of these individual layers and their effects to achieve just the look you want. This same design could have been made to look as if chiseled on stone or carved from polished gemstones without touching the base art, but only manipulating the layer effects.

Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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Featured Art: Warhammer

First off, for those of you into the Wargame/Role-Playing Game, it’s not that Warhammer. This was a logo for a Mixed Martial Arts studio that I did through Empty Room Studios. Superficially, it does have some similarities to the game property. They both have a larger-than-life sense of design, with sensuous exaggerated musculature and rounded, yet chunky, massive form. The instructions from the customer were “an image of a viking/warrior/beastman smashing a warhammer (or probably a sledge hammer) into a stone version of their company name WarHammer MMA“.

My first three sketches were as follows:

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Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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Featured Map: The World of Solomon Kane

With the advent of the upcoming movie, I thought I’d showcase a map I made for Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s RPG: The Savage World of Solomon Kane.

This is an example of a common difficulty in historical fantasy game maps. There is a constant battle between accuracy and artistic authenticity. On the one hand, the customer wants a map that will look as much as possible like a map of teh time. They want a product which the player or gamemaster can hold and get that visceral feel of connection with the setting.

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In this case, Solomon Kane lived in the 16th century. The world was far from fully mapped. At the same time, much of the action is in the discovery and exploration of far-off lands, or strange hidden lands within places once mysterious and unknown, such as Deepest Africa. You will note that Australia is hinted at on this map, though it was not discovered by Europeans until the following centruy.

This is a nod to Accuracy and Utility. Though we want a map that looks like something Kane himself might have held, the players and gamemaster want something that they can use to accurately gauge distances, or spacial relationships between land-masses. They want the arcane and the familiar in one product. In general, these aims are incompatible, and the problem gets worse as you “zoom in” to larger scale maps. In a future post, I will show a portion of a map of the Eastern seaboard of North America that also illustrates this point.

The concession was arrived at in this map, that landmasses that had been discovered would be shown faithfully, even if they were not already fully mapped. The farthest north, the farthest south, and places like Australia would be faded and ghostly.

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Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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Featured Map: Cyberpunk City Satellite View

Rezolution City Map - Click for full image.

Rezolution City Map - Click for full image.

This map was created for Aberrant Games, for their Rezolution line. It was an emergency job, as the contracted artist had let them down in some manner. They needed a city sector map for a post apocalyptic, cyberpunk style world. I was given an existing piece and asked to copy the style. I don’t have re-posting rights for the sample, but I am allowed to feature the resulting map I created.

This is an example of a collaboration of Illustrator and Photoshop elements. 90% of the detail is provided by Illustrator. Most of this detail is implied. The aim was to create something that looked like a satellite image. To this end, there is no perspective to speak of, just a straight top-down view.

The buildings are actually simple shapes, with hairline outlines. The shapes all have a tiny drop shadow effect applied to them to give them the illusion of sitting on a surface. Illustrator allows you to apply a Style to an object, much like you would define and apply a style to text in a word processor. So I was started with objects based on this style. If they looked less than convincing, I could redefine the style and all the buildings would update to match. This made edits very quick and uniform. I always try to plan a project for efficiency. (You might notice a lot of repeated shapes.)

The resulting image however did not look convincing. It needed the sort of detail that makes a satellite image look real. As I sated earlier, this was a rush project, so I couldn’t really take the time to add the necessary fiddly bits to lend authenticity. Nowadays, I have several techniques using defined image patterns, but I hadn’t hit on that idea yet. Besides, part of the assignment specs required that some of the buildings be distinct and well-defined. Too much detail would tend to get them lost and make their unclear. To that end I decided to keep the buildings fairly smooth, and make the background chaotic and detailed instead.

I took some real satellite images from various sources and mixed and matched. There are real-world cities, as well as some badlands topology. I reduced them to a grayscale of similar value to the building pieces and used that as a backdrop for the whole project.

Finally, the project required the whole illustration to look like a computer display. I created a frame with a 3-D effect and devised a lettering style. Once again, in the interests of efficiency, the labels are styles. All I had to do was type the name and the round-cornered rectangular background creates itself. If I didn’t like the results (and I didn’t, for the first several attempts), I redefined the style and all the labels updated.

I liked the finished piece. It gives the illusion of exquisite thoroughness with very little actual technical detail.

This map is copyright Aberrant Games. Reproduced with permission.

For more maps and commissioned art, go to www.KACurtis.com

Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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Visitors

So I’m on my way to bed last night. I went out to the carport to get my ipod and I look up and surprise a family of deer. A buck, a doe and two fauns are investigating our “garden” (mostly weeds at the moment). They looked up at me, but didn’t bolt. I quietly moved back inside to get Susan and we watched them examine our yard for about ten minutes.

I love living here.

Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.

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End of the road

Well, the board has met and made its official proposal. There will be a congregational meeting at the end of the month to finalize the budget, but the Religious Education program has been gutted. They are replacing the Director of Religious Education with a Religious Education Volunteer Coordinator. This means about 5 hours of time a week, asking for volunteers to teach and providing them with curriculum. I really can’t get behind this idea and have very little confidence that sufficient quality volunteers can be found to staff the program full time. 

I do not feel that this model will produce a program of sufficient quality that my daughter will benefit by participation, which is really the reason I got involved with R.E. to begin with. I have heard from other families that feel the same way. So by cutting the program down, they are simultaneously eliminating the need for one. I respect the board, who have had to come up with this proposal in the face of diminished pledges and a small, but powerful minority that would really rather not have kids in the Fellowship at all.

I did a lot of soul searching on this before deciding not to continue my presence in the program. Everyone whom I have spoken with has assured me that this is the right decision. 

So I’m going to have a lot of free Sundays starting in July.

sigh.

Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.